A Colorado Springs police officer is at the center of an internal affairs investigation after parking in a fire lane and blocking a hydrant for more than an hour.
The issue isn't about just one officer who parked illegally, but rather what the officer said to News 5 Investigates when questioned about why he was parked there.
News 5 cameras captured video of a Colorado Springs police sergeant illegally parking in front of Chipotle downtown on Tejon St.
We realized the officer may have been on a call, so we waited for him to return to his cruiser so we could ask questions.
Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross immediately identified himself, "Eric Ross with Channel 5. Were you guys on a call?"
"Yeah, we were over here work related--yes," the sergeant replied. "That was it."
Ross responded, "You were parked in front of a fire lane and hydrant."
"Yeh I know," the sergeant said. "We are aware of it."
The sergeant did not tell us what type of work-related call he was on, so we continued asking questions.
Ross asked, "Are you allowed to park in front of a fire hydrant?"
"It depends on the circumstances," the sergeant said. "Is that what you're asking?"
"Yes," Ross replied.
"If we get a call for service for example in a building, I would park here if there is no place else to park," the sergeant said.
There's just one problem---the sergeant and his partner were not on a service call to help citizens.
They were attending a luncheon with other officers at Jack Quinn's downtown.
We sent video and picture evidence to the Colorado Springs Police Department.
A spokesperson confirmed the department opened an internal affairs investigation, but cannot comment further citing the fact that this issue is a "personnel matter".
"If we get a call, we'll park wherever is necessary," the sergeant reiterated to Ross.
A spokesperson sent News 5 an email late Friday clarifying that the sergeant who illegally parked in a fire lane had been invited to attend a luncheon by his lieutenant.
As far as we know, the officer has not been cited.
When News 5 Investigates was calling to find out whether the sergeant was on a service call, whomever picked up the phone at the Gold Hill substation couldn't answer our question. We did provide the department with the officer's license plate number for research purposes.
News 5 was told by the Gold Hill substation that if there was an actual emergency where fire crews needed access to the hydrant that was blocked, they would be able to page the officer and ask him to move.
Feedback from viewers:
Reactions are mixed on whether the officer was in the "right" or "wrong".
"No one is above the law, especially law enforcement," viewer Anthony Maro writes on Facebook.
I just watched your story covering police parking in downtown Colorado Springs," District 11 teacher Cindy Brandt writes. "As far as I am concerned – a first responder can park wherever they want. There is nothing wrong with them having lunch at a restaurant. I want them to easily access their vehicle in case they are called to a real emergency."
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